Friday, July 8, 2016

Suture

Spoilers

Vincent and Clay are brothers, long separated.  After their father's funeral, Vincent (a suspect in the death) contacts Clay and soon the siblings are riding through Phoenix on the way to Vincent's home, an old bank converted into a sleek luxury pad.  Once there, Vincent tells Clay that he has to fly to Los Angeles for a quick business trip.  He asks his identical twin to assume his identity while he is away.  As Clay is driving back from the airport, Vincent calls and apologizes to him right before he detonates a bomb under the vehicle.

Clay wakes up in a hospital, amnesiac, with face bandaged and left eye missing.  He suffers from strange dreams, of a dusty one horse town, of buses.  A plastic surgeon named Renee Descartes tends to his plastic surgery.  A psychiatrist tries to help Clay remember who he is/was. Vincent will eventually return.

1993's SUTURE is described as "avant garde" cinema by its DVD distributor, MGM.  I can agree with this to a point, though most of the films I've seen described this way were more experimental with editing or cinematography.  SUTURE is shot in black and white and is beautifully composed by cinematographer Greg Gardiner.  Directors Scott McGehee and David Siegel likewise are inventive in their methods though they take a far more subtle approach than many of their contemporaries (perhaps even Hitchcock, who would've been right at home with this material). Their film could've easily become a mad art house extravaganza but instead opts for a quiet, insidious ride that arrives at an expected destination and does in fact takes many of the expected routes to get there.

But there's a central conceit that immediately announces that SUTURE is not to be taken literally:  Vincent (Michael Harris) is white and Clay (Dennis Haysbert) is black.

Just about everyone in the movie, including the two main characters, remark how much alike they look.  Uncanny.  Dr. Descartes (Mel Harris) watches an old video of Vincent as she prepares for Clay's reconstructive surgery.  The brothers' mother Alice (Dina Merrill) is entirely convinced that this strange African American man is her son Vincent.  Are we the butt of a joke? A wildly pretentious attempt to make big statements about identity and race?  Perhaps.  That argument could be made.  You'll either go with it and find layers or be so put off by this blatant fantasy that any merit will be lost on you.  Or maybe only the audience sees the obvious differences? Maybe the characters in the film are so tired and complacent they don't notice? Excepting maybe Mrs. Lucerne (Fran Ryan), witness to Vincent's father's murder and just not able to settle on Clay as the killer during a police line up, even though she remembers the killer's face.

SUTURE resembles old film noir as well as a film from the '60s called SECONDS, which involved an aging man's agreement to undergo surgery to make him young again, with ultimately terrifying results.   Film students and cineastes will probe SUTURE for nuggets that support a particular thesis.  Early in the movie,  the wealthy Vincent explains that he lives a charmed life that is constantly under threat from outside forces that seek to pilfer that wealth.  That might include Clay, an Everyman construction worker who of course must be eliminated.  There must be a corpse for Vincent to go forth with daddy's inheritance and be someone else.  Or maybe just anonymous.  But who will ultimately be Vincent Towers?

No comments: